2023 Formula Drift Finals
Irwindale Speedway (Irwindale, CA)
October 13-14, 2023
“Four drivers arrived at the Irwindale oval with a mathematical chance of claiming the PRO Championship title. But after racking up an unequalled three round wins during the season, Chelsea DeNofa (USA) appeared to hold an unassailable position. With a 53 point margin to second place Matt Field (USA), and a total of 103 points on offer for the top qualifier and Round winner, only a lunatic would’ve bet against him.
The two Norwegians, Simen Olsen and triple FD PRO Champion Fredric Aasbo, were 77 and 81 points behind DeNofa, respectively, and would need a miracle.
The only RTR driver not to win a Round was three-time FD PRO Champion James Deane (Ireland). Following his huge crash during Friday’s practice, Deane managed to qualify sixth but seemed unlikely to compete given his physical condition. However, a Saturday practice run convinced him otherwise and Deane placed third on the night; his birthday. Securing his second podium of the season moved Deane to fifth in the Championship standings.
Amid the Championship celebrations, Nick Noback (USA) quietly set about creating the perfect weekend in the Noback Racing Co E46 BMW by Jerry Yang Racing. Qualifying first and winning Round 8, it was the best result of his short FD career, which began as a PROSPEC Rookie in 2020 before joining the PRO Championship last year.
In the Final, Noback defeated Aurimas Bakchis (Lithuania) in another tight contest that crowned a solid season. Arriving at Irwindale in 20th position, the win bounced Noback to 12th overall and put him on everybody’s radar.
Reaching the Final was a watershed moment for Bakchis as well. The driver of the Feal Suspension / GT Radial Nissan S15 had dropped out of title contention at the previous round, dropping to fifth in the Championship table. However, Odi’s second place at Irwindale was the icing on an incredible season. After a round win in St Louis, he amassed enough points to leapfrog Aasbo, teammate Olsen, and Field to claim second in the 2023 Formula DRIFT PRO Championship.
Not only was it the best result of Odi’s FD career but he’s also experienced tremendous success as the leader and manager of Team Feal.
In contrast, Papadakis Racing didn’t win a single round in 2023, with both the three-time and reigning FD PRO Champion Aasbo and teammate Ryan Tuerck (USA) failing to take advantage of strong qualifying performances. Aasbo achieved three podiums while Tuerck finished fourth on three occasions, including Round 8. After his Top 32 defeat, Aasbo finished the night in 21st and the season in sixth, while Tuerck was fourth and seventh, respectively.
Similarly, Field’s early demise dropped him down the table, finishing 22nd on the night and third for the season despite three podiums, which included a win in Round 1.
Robert Thorne (USA), the 2022 FD Link ECU PROSPEC Champion, won the 2023 FD PRO Rookie of the Year chase in the ASM E46 BMW Sedan Pro Edition. Finishing 12th in Round 8, he placed 20th in the Championship table, 32 points clear of nearest rival, Diego Higa (Brazil).
And to complete the awards, GT Radial claimed the 2023 Formula DRIFT PRO Tire Cup after a close battle with Nitto. Ford won the Auto Cup at the previous round and further extended its lead in Irwindale thanks to the efforts of RTR Motorsports.”
Photographer: Jose Ortiz